CommVault first to de-dupe to tape

Feature-packed Simpana 8 drinks your milkshake


CommVault has updated its data protection and management product Simpana so it can store de-duplicated data on tape - something no other product does.

Generally accepted rules say that the most efficient way of storing data - de-duplicated with repeating patterns taken out - can't be used with tape, the cheapest long-life storage medium, because restoring the data needs the original de-dupe server and takes an age. CommVault has just rewritten these rules.

With de-duplication an index of repeated patterns of the data blocks constituting a file is maintained and new files have already stored block patterns replaced by space-saving pointers. When a de-duplicated file is restored, rehydrated in trade jargon, the pointers are replaced by the original indexed block patterns stored on the de-duplicating server. This relationship between de-duped file and index has meant that only hard disk drive storage arrays have been used to store de-duplicated data.

CommVault, with its latest 8.0 version of Simpana, its data protection and management software suite, has married the storage efficiency of de-dupe and the cheap longevity of tape. How has it managed this trick?

Simpana has provided de-duplication and disk-to-disk backup for some time. It describes the de-duped data on disk as 'indexed clusters of packed segments.' Tape is treated as a another level of storage, below disk and as the data on the disk ages. It is automatically transferred to tape to free up disk space for newer data. All the data on the tape is self-describing so it can serve for disaster recovery or archiving.

When a user request comes in for de-duped data that has been migrated to tape, it is brought back to disk in a rehydration process. This needs Simpana's Media Agent, the tape drive and some empty disk space. Later it will age off the disk again and repeat as needed over time. The user will tune the system to keep the most current recovery copies on the storage system, while the older sets migrate down to the tape layer for the long-haul.

What this means is that the effective capacity of tape drives for backed up data is radically increased. An 800GB LTO4 drive, which could hold up to 1.6TB of compressed raw data, can now hold 6-8TB of data (your mileage can vary), possibly more. It effectively matches the reduction you have on disk.

This can make a big difference to the number of tape cartridges you use, the copy operation time for what was 6-8TB of data, the number of tape drives you need and the vaulting and handling costs for the cartridges.

There are 140 new Simpana features, with de-duping to tape being merely one of them. Another is the addition of desktops and laptops as data sources to the existing servers. Simpana 8 backs up virtual machines (VMs) with a host agent in the ESX server obviating the need for agents per VM.

Its SnapBackup facility works with EMC and NetApp snapshot facilities to enable consistent, app-aware snapshots of Exchange, Oracle and SQL Server. The list of supported applications and supported storage vendor snapshot services will extend over time and SnapBackup support for virtual machines, both VMware and Hyper-V, will be added.

The indexing facility has been extended to carry out online indexing of file systems and Exchange files. This means you can search both archived and on-line emails. A rules engine has been added so that if data patterns, such as credit card numbers, are detected in mails then alerts can be sent to an administrator.

Simpana 8 features are available in various consolidated pricing bundles. There is a single, universal electronic key that embeds all licensable options and lets customers centralise license management and deploy agents across the enterprise through a single ‘pane of glass’ interface. Detailed pricing and availability information was not announced.®


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